For more than 20 years, Ann Liguori has been a major player in the sports media world.
Liguori is leaving her mark in an industry that has been, until recently, dominated by men, whether she’s providing golf and tennis coverage for one of the most well-known sports talk radio stations in New York, WFAN; hosting her own sports talk show, “Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori” on WPPB 88.3 FM; producing a sports television series; or writing about the world-famous athletes she’s interviewed over the years.
When she’s not working, Liguori focuses her energies on charitable causes, raising money for cancer research, a cause that is near and dear to her heart. On Monday, she hosted the Ann Liguori Charity Golf Classic at The Bridge in Bridgehampton, raising money for the Ann Liguori Foundation, which benefits cancer research.
The Westhampton resident took time out of her busy schedule to speak with The Press last week, talking about her lastest career endeavors and also providing her insight on the upcoming U.S. Women’s Open, which will be contested at Sebonack Golf Course in Southampton at the end of June.
Question: Your annual golf outing is coming up on Monday, and it’s at The Bridge this year, which is a great course. You’ve had your golf outing at many of the East End’s celebrated golf courses, including Sebonack, which is hosting the U.S. Women’s Open this year. Tell me about your familiarity with Sebonack, and what kind of test you think it will give the players at the end of June.
Ann Liguori: I played Sebonack several times, and we actually had our Ann Liguori Charity Golf Classic there two years ago. Sebonack will certainly be a challenge for the best female players in the world—but that’s what Open courses do. All Open courses are supposed to be extremely challenging. That’s what the USGA aims for, and so Sebonack, which is challenging to begin with, particularly the undulating, fast greens, will provide the ultimate test for the best female players in the world.
The wind will certainly be a factor too, as it usually is. And they are going to have to know exactly where to hit their approach shots, because the greens are so tricky. Course knowledge will be key. The players who can get out there early to practice with their caddies and really study the course, it will certainly help.
Q: I know your golf outing and the Ann Liguori Foundation has been a big part of your very busy life for many years. Tell me about the evolution of the golf outing and what aspects of it have made you the most proud?
AL: Well, 15 years ago, the American Cancer Society approached me and asked me if I could host a charity golf outing in Westhampton. I live in Westhampton, and I lost my father to cancer when I was in college. I always played in a lot of charity golf events and had been helping organize a lot of other events, so when the American Cancer Society asked me to host this one right in my own backyard, and it was the Westhampton Country Club the first six years, I said, sure, I would be delighted to host it. And, basically, we grew it into the biggest celebrity golf event, and it might have been the only one out here, for 10 years.
For the first 10 years it was a celebrity tournament, then, five years ago, I put my own foundation together at the suggestion of a friend of mine who runs a not-for-profit, so that we could help a number of not-for-profits that focus on cancer prevention and cancer research. Five years ago, it became the Ann Liguori Foundation Charity Golf Classic. I’m proud to say we help a number of organizations, including the American Cancer Soceity, and we’re able to support a number of other charities and organizations.
We also bring out a nutrition expert, Jill Jayne, and she puts on assemblies for middle school kids and all ages. She’s been in Southampton, Sag Harbor and Springs. The assemblies are very educational and quite entertaining, and a lot of adults say it’s the best assembly they’ve ever had. It teaches young people about overall good health benefits. It’s important to teach young people about eating properly and the importance of regular exercise. If you look at the statistics, they’re not eating properly and they’re not exercising, so we’re doing our part in educating young people about these important topics.
Q: You’ve been a prominent figure in the sports media world for a long time now. Catch us up on your latest career endeavors.
AL: I continue to host “Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori” every Saturday morning on WPPB 88.3, from 9 to 10, and that show is so great because if you can’t hear it on WPPB, you can hear it from anywhere on the planet on peconicpublicbroadcasting.org. I have a longtime loyal fan base from 23 years of hosting a sports call-in show on WFAN, so it’s great to hear from a lot of those listeners who tune in to that show and email me and Facebook me.
That show features two guests per hour, and it’s a sports interview show, and obviously we do a lot of golf. But the other day we had on Earl Monroe, and we previewed the Kentucky Derby. Last weekend, we had Robert Lipsyte, and a couple of weeks ago we had Sally Jenkins on. She’s a writer and journalist who wrote all three books on [University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach] Pat Summitt. Robert Lipstye and Sally Jenkins both have houses on the East End. A lot of really interesting sports personalities live on the East End. So I like to give it that local flavor. But it really has a combination of East End flavor with nationally recognized guests, athletes or agents or authors. We really cover a pretty wide gamut of topics in sports.
We just had our WPPB golf outing at Noyac Golf Club, and it was a lot of fun. The station is just a real gem.
I’m also working on a new TV sports series. The show is going to be called “Links to Leadership,” and it’s going to be a series where I interview top sports executives who have a passion for golf. It will air on CBS Sports Network, and Ann Liguori Productions and Sporty Bear Productions are going to be co-producing it. It will air some time in 2014. It’s exciting, because it’s a new series.
I’m also working on a new book; the only other book I have is in a second printing, “A Passion For Golf, Celebrity Musings About the Game.” I’m doing an author signing in East Hampton in August. The new book I’m working on is all about the sports legends I’ve interviewed and what they told me during those interviews. These are legends, many of whom aren’t around anymore, like Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Wilt Chamberlain. I’ve interviewed over 600 of these personalities, and so I’m going to write a book about talking to these incredible legends. I wish I had 48 hours in a day!
Q: You also have a well-deserved reputation as a female pioneer of sorts in the sports media industry, which is much more friendly to females now but certainly wasn’t, historically. Do you take a certain amount of pride in that? And what are some of the biggest changes you’ve witnessed in the industry since you first started out?
AL: Obviously, there are more women in front of the camera, whether they’re anchoring a sports news show or being a sideline reporter. There are more women in sports marketing, and there are more women getting into all aspects of the sports business, which I think is great. I think a great job for women would be a sports agent. They’d have to get a law degree, but there are so many athletes who need great organization, and a woman who would be organized and sensitive to certain issues would make a great sports agent. That’s a field I’d like to see more women get into.
And I can’t even tell you who owns their own program like I do. That was the most wise decision I made when I was in my 20s. When I first started, women weren’t hosting their own shows, and still aren’t, really. In order to do what I wanted to do, I decided to go out and put the whole thing together myself. I bring in the sponsors and organize the distribution. From A to Z, I put the whole thing together, and I just find that so fulfilling. I love being my own boss, and, basically, the sky’s the limit—nobody is telling me I can’t do this or that because of my gender. There are certainly challenges in running your own company, and you’re only as good as your last assignment, but I’ve always been able to juggle a lot of different things simultaneously. Running my own company just makes it really interesting, and there’s always work, thank goodness.
Q: Back to the upcoming Women’s Open. How have you seen the women’s game evolve over the years? What separates the pros and top players of today from the pros and top players of 10 or 20 years ago?
AL: There’s more prize money, which is great. And I think the advances in equipment have made the biggest changes. Not only the clubs but the balls, and the players, men and women, are hitting the ball further. However, it still comes down to putting the ball in the cup, and it still comes down to putting and the skills and talents of the players. They have to have a really excellent short game and have to be excellent putters. But I just think, overall, for women, there’s just more money in the game and more possibility for endorsements now than there was before.
Q: Do you have any predictions about which players should do well at Sebonack? Do you have any “sleeper picks” for who could surprise people and maybe win the tournament?
AL: I would love to see an American win it. I just spent some time with Cristie Kerr, and I’d love to see her win her second Open. She won recently, so that has to add to her confidence coming in the U.S. Open. She’s been out here and spent hours studying the golf course.
I’d love to see Juli Inkster win her third U.S. Open. She got in with a special exemption, and rightfully so. She will turn 53 that week of the Open, so wouldn’t it be great for a 53-year-old American woman to win?
Or Stacy Lewis winning her first U.S. Open? Or even someone like Michelle Wie. I’d love to see Wie break through and win a U.S. Open. She had so much fanfare as a teen and has yet to live up to those expectations.
I just want to see an American win. If there were more American winners, there would be more tournaments here in our country, and I think it would be a boost to the game as far as popularity in this country.
Q: What would your advice be to spectators, especially those who may have never attended a big golf tournament like this or a women’s tournament? What would you tell them they should expect?
AL: First of all, they will see the top women players in the world, and these women are amazing players, and I think a lot of people might not realize how good they are. If you play golf, you have more of an insight into how difficult the sport is. They will see incredible skill out there, and they will see a beautiful golf course with spectacular views, and it’s just a win-win because it will be a lovely walk and you’ll see amazing players out there with skill levels that we can only dream about.
I think what’s great is that the whole community has really wrapped their arms around this Open. Many of my golf buddies are volunteering to work the Open, and everybody I talk to seems to be volunteering to work the tournament.
I’ll be hosting “Sports Innerview” the Saturday of the Open, and I’ll be doing a book signing in the merchandise tent. I’ll be out there every day—it should be a lot of fun.